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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Friday, 21 October 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (October 22-23)

It looked like another week when I would be taking a chunk out of the October losses, but a truly dreadful time picking the Europa League games on Thursday has sent me hurtling backwards.

That has made it increasingly unlikely that I will be able to turn October into a positive month, but the remaining week of the month is now geared towards putting some wins together to take some momentum into the November fixtures.

Once again we will be having an early international break in November before a clear run heading into a really busy Christmas period which has frustrated at least one manager. Jurgen Klopp was spitting feathers just moments after learning the festive fixtures for Liverpool and there will be a few other managers already considering how they will get their squads through that period.

From December 4th to January 7th, Manchester United will play at least nine games in all competitions and you could potentially add another game if they reach the English Football League Cup Quarter Final. That is a lot of games for any squad to deal with and I won't be surprised if injuries are the outcome.

However, I love Christmas and being able to watch football so what could really be done? Well I think it might have been smart to move the Monday 2nd January fixtures to either Tuesday or Wednesday which would have made all the difference when it comes to recovery time. I know that is a little unfair on the fans with Monday being a Bank Holiday, but outside of a 'Winter Break' or reducing international commitments through the year I am not sure how you can tally the desire to watch football over Christmas with the avoiding of a congested list.

Thinking about Christmas already is crazy, but this whole 2016 calendar year has flown by and at least by thinking about it I might avoid the headache of rushing out a few days before to get my shopping done. I have promised myself that I will have it all done by early December (no, I am not going to cheap out by waiting for the Black Friday sales first), but let's see if that comes true in six weeks time.

The Premier League weekend does not have a Monday Night Football game lined up this weekend so will take place over Saturday and Sunday. There are some big games on slate domestically so let's just get on with the picks from this Weekend's Football.

Bournemouth v Tottenham Hotspur PickThe Premier League weekend will open with an intriguing game between two sides who will feel they have some form behind them. Bournemouth are coming in off a hugely successful day against Hull City, while Tottenham Hotspur protect a 7 game unbeaten run in all competitions.

The concern for Tottenham Hotspur fans has to be the amount of chances they have wasted in the last couple of games which have both ended in draws. Mauricio Pochettino has to feel that they won't keep missing those opportunities, but it does make me wonder if the absence of Harry Kane is a much bigger issue than the media have made out.

You have to think Kane would have taken at least one of the chances that have been created in the last couple of games which would have produced a win. Tottenham Hotspur can't afford to be as wasteful this weekend against a Bournemouth team that have scored in every home game this season and who will have been encouraged by the fact that the away team will be without Toby Alderweireld this weekend.

Alderweireld's absence has meant there are a few more gaps to exploit in Tottenham Hotspur's defence and players like Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas have shown they have goals at this level.

I think the attacking players on display in this game will help produce an exciting game as Eddie Howe won't want his Bournemouth players to sit back and contain Tottenham Hotspur. That style does mean there will be chances for Tottenham Hotspur too and it might be the third League meeting in a row between these teams that can produce at least three goals.

I have to feel Tottenham Hotspur deserve their favouritism because I can't see them continue to be as wasteful in front of goal as they have been in the last couple of games. Bournemouth can play their part in this one too having scored in every game played at The Vitality Stadium this season, and my feeling is the first game of the Premier League weekend will produce a 2-1 scoreline, most likely to Tottenham Hotspur, and I will back goals with that in mind.

Arsenal v Middlesbrough PickNo one knows whether Arsenal are going to show the character in the squad to sustain a title challenge this time around, but you can't doubt how well they are playing at the moment. They have won plenty of games in a row which will be swelling the confidence of the players, while Arsenal are incredibly dangerous at The Emirates Stadium where they have scored at least twice in every home game this season.

Arsenal have won 5 in a row at home and the goals conceded at Swansea City are an exception to how well the side have been defending.

They are facing a Middlesbrough team who have struggled for goals during this Premier League season and who have lost 4 of their last 5 League games. While they have shown toughness away from home, the games against Sunderland, West Brom and West Ham United are not comparable to visiting Arsenal.

Middlesbrough have played at Everton too and were dismissed 3-1 at Goodison Park and I would expect Arsenal to win with a level of comfort on Saturday. They have a number of forward players in very strong form and I can't see Middlesbrough containing Arsenal nor threaten them as much as Swansea City did last weekend.

Not many would have picked Arsenal to be leading the table before the end of October when they took a single point from their first couple of League games this season. However I think Arsenal win by a couple of goals at least and can move to the summit of the Premier League for at least a few hours before Manchester City take to the field on Sunday.

Leicester City v Crystal Palace Pick: I am not buying all this nonsense about Leicester City being more focused on the Champions League than the defence of their Premier League title. I think the reality is that The Foxes have played Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League and the likes of Porto, Copenhagen and Club Brugge in the Champions League and their level has seen them fail to match the top sides in England.

Let's face it, Leicester City overachieved massively last season and most would have tipped them up as a mid-table side at best this time around. Maybe they finish inside the top ten, but ultimately no one was expecting huge things from them.

The easy suggestion they are focused on the Champions League has to come from the points they have earned- but aside from the win over Club Brugge, Leicester City may easily have dropped points to both Porto and Copenhagen with better finishing from their visitors to the King Power Stadium.

No doubt you will hear the 'Champions League being prioritised' suggestions again if Leicester City fail to beat Crystal Palace this weekend, but this far from an easy game. Alan Pardew's men have had a week to prepare for this game and they have plenty of attacking threats to make them a dangerous team for Leicester City to face, particularly from set pieces where Claudio Ranieri's men have struggled.

The Leicester City games have not been as entertaining this season, for the most part, as they were last season because they have looked better defensively at home. The same can't be said for The Foxes away from home though and again I think the fixture list and some luck has perhaps played a part in their clean sheets at home. I expect Crystal Palace to really test out the backline in this one and Christian Benteke owes the manager a performance having missed a penalty in the 0-1 home loss to West Ham United last Saturday.

Games between these clubs have resulted in low-scoring matches in recent times, but I think they can buck that trend this weekend. I do think Crystal Palace can play their part, but defensively they have looked vulnerable and Leicester City have enough about them to create chances and score goals too. At odds against I am going to back at least three goals to be shared out in what could easily end up being a 2-1 scoreline either way.

Liverpool v West Brom PickIt is easy to point the finger at Jose Mourinho and blame his 'negativity' for the way the game at Anfield developed on Monday Night Football, but Liverpool have to be disappointed with their own performance. Everyone expected them to come out with some fire, but Jurgen Klopp can be blamed for starting Daniel Sturridge up front which took away the fluidity of the Liverpool attack.

It is the interchanging front three that have caused so many problems for Liverpool's opponents at the start of this season, but Sturridge is not able to really play in that way. It made it easy for Manchester United to defend and Liverpool only improved when Sturridge was replaced in the second half.

I expect Liverpool to return to the formation which has worked well for them through this season and that could mean big problems for West Brom who have yet to take on one of the big clubs in the Division on their travels.

Last week they did face Tottenham Hotspur, but West Brom cannot afford to give Liverpool the kind of chances they gave to Spurs because they can't expect Ben Foster to have the special day he did two weeks in a row. Make no mistake that Foster saved West Brom, but it is going to be difficult to contain Liverpool with the room they allowed Tottenham Hotspur who dominated possession but also created plenty.

With the players Liverpool have and the free-scoring they had been doing at Anfield prior to the game with Manchester United I expect this to be a long day for West Brom. Tony Pulis will set them out to defend in numbers and restrict the space as Mourinho did, but Manchester United were thankful to David De Gea in the second half and I am not sure West Brom can match that fitness over ninety minutes.

I do think West Brom can pose problems from set pieces, but they have to show enough ambition to produce corners and free kicks in the Liverpool final third and that is an issue. I can see Liverpool making a much more positive start this weekend than they did against Manchester United and eventually they will wear down and secure an impressive result.

Tottenham Hotspur could have had three or four against West Brom last weekend and I think Liverpool will do enough to win this by a couple of goals in the second live game on Saturday.

Manchester City v Southampton PickThere might have been a few jokes flying around about the scoreline in the Manchester City loss to Barcelona, but I actually was quite impressed with the way they played before being reduced to ten men. Mistakes cost Manchester City against one of the best teams in Europe, but they should be able to get away with a few more against Southampton in this Premier League game.

At the moment Southampton deserve more plaudits for their performances than Manchester City, but I think the home team might be being stung by more criticism than they deserve. With a bit more luck and composure, Manchester City might be coming into this game with two very positive results rather than the ones they have produced and I think there will be a reaction.

Sergio Aguero has to be chomping at the bit to return to the side having been on the substitute bench the last two games and I am not buying rumours that Guardiola doesn't fancy him as a player. He played with a strong centre forward at Bayern Munich and I think Aguero will be a big player for Manchester City and has all the quality to make a scoring return to the side.

Southampton won't be a pushover as they have shown in recent weeks, especially with a strong defensive base that will be similar to what Manchester City faced against Everton last week. Playing a Ronald Koeman side last weekend will have prepared Guardiola for something similar and I think Manchester City created enough to have been able to win that game with some comfort on another day.

There is a feeling that Manchester City are going to come out with something to prove and Southampton have had some long afternoons in this Stadium in recent seasons. I have to credit the defensive performances from The Saints, but they are going to have to be very resilient in this one and I feel the recent fixture list has contributed to their success.

I will back Manchester City to show they are not quite in the crisis some would suggest and have a little more luck on their side to produce a win by a couple of goals this Sunday. For all of the defensive praise, it should be noted that Southampton have not scored in their last 3 away games and failing to do that here should allow Manchester City to cover the Asian Handicap.

Chelsea v Manchester United PickThis is yet another big game for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United and comes just days after a Europa League tie on a Thursday. With Manchester City next up on deck in the English Football League Cup, this could be a critical time of the season for Manchester United.

So far, so good has to be the marks for Manchester United after the draw at Anfield was followed by a big win over Fenerbahce during the week which won't have taxed the legs too much.

Some of the criticism of Mourinho's tactics at Liverpool have been absolutely ridiculous as far as I am concerned as Manchester United stifled their hosts and offered up very little in terms of opportunities. I think Liverpool should be criticised more for coming out so cautious and Zlatan Ibrahimovic should really have given Manchester United the lead in that game.

If United had 0-1, Mourinho would have been praised and I don't remember the last time a point at Anfield was considered such a negative. Manchester United might not have shown a lot in an attacking sense in the second half, but for 60 minutes they had the better of the game and arguably should have had the lead at that time.

I don't think Mourinho will change his tactics too much for this game as he looks to make Manchester United hard to beat, but fans will recognise that Chelsea haven't looked as good as Liverpool in the first three months of the season. With Mourinho's knowledge of this squad, I expect to see Manchester United as more of an attacking threat and I wouldn't be surprised if the right tactics lead to a big three points in West London on Sunday.

Chelsea have to be credited with their performances since the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal which meant they suffered back to back League defeats. Antonio Conte is still settling in as manager, even if some rumours suggested he might be ready to be sacked already, and I think the absence of John Terry is a big blow for the home team.

Both David Luiz and Gary Cahill look like they have a mistake in them and I think Manchester United will have their chances and can win if they can contain Eden Hazard, Willian and Diego Costa in much the way they corralled Liverpool's threat last week. There will be some difficult moments in a tough away venue like this one, but Manchester United are more than solid enough to do a job here even if they have played twice since Chelsea played last Saturday lunchtime.

I was hoping that Chelsea might have been overrated to the extent they were against Liverpool last month when I backed the away side to avoid defeat. It isn't as appealing a price this time around, but Manchester United can do the same and potentially steal the three points in what looks likely to be another tactical encounter on Sunday.

Newcastle United v Ipswich Town PickThe layers haven't really respected Newcastle United's superior squad too many times this season with some decent looking prices on the home team to win their games. However that isn't the case this weekend as they have come in and are now being asked to cover bigger Asian Handicaps to reach a decent price.

There will be many that will stick Newcastle United in their accumulators this weekend and I can't really go against that on their current form and the opponent they are playing. Ipswich Town have struggled for goals, but they can be hard to break down, so I would want more bang for my buck and I think that can come by backing Newcastle United to win with a clean sheet.

With Dwight Gayle in the form he is in, I would be very surprised if Newcastle United didn't score this weekend, so how are they doing on the other side of the field.

The Magpies only have 2 clean sheets in 6 League games and both Norwich City and Brentford have scored at St James' Park in losing efforts recently. Newcastle United only have 1 clean sheet in 4 games here in all competitions, but they are facing a goal-shy Ipswich Town team who have scored just 10 times in the League and only twice away from home.

Before the opening goal against Burton Albion, Ipswich Town had failed to score in 502 minutes in the League and I think they will likely look to stifle Newcastle United rather than show too much ambition going forward. The lack of goals is a real concern for Mick McCarthy and I think Newcastle United winning to nil at odds against is an attractive price and one worth backing.

Norwich City v Preston North End PickThe 2-2 draw at Fulham on Tuesday was a big disappointment for Norwich City from the position they had been in, but they remain in a strong position in the League table. Being back home is going to be a confidence boost for a team that have been winning plenty of games at home and scoring plenty of goals.

Norwich City have scored at least twice in their last 5 home games in all competitions and they have won all of those games. The one concern has to be that they have conceded in all of those games and a side like Preston North End can cause problems as they have shown by scoring at least twice in each of their last 3 away games in all competitions.

That run includes an impressive point at Brighton last weekend although Preston North End needed an injury time equaliser to achieve that. I do think they will play their part in this fixture with the goals they are scoring and meeting a Norwich City team that have struggled for clean sheets of late.

However I do think Norwich City are capable of breaking down the Preston North End defences too and they have been scoring enough goals to feel they can win this one. At some point Norwich City have to be tightening up their backline to stop needing at least two goals to win games, but it might not happen this week.

I expect Norwich City to have a little too much for Preston North End at the end of this one, but having a small interest in them winning the game but both teams scoring looks too big to ignore.

Nottingham Forest v Cardiff City PickYou know Neil Warnock is going to try and make Cardiff City very hard to beat to start moving them up the Championship table and I think he will send out a side to do that against Nottingham Forest. He will respect how well Nottingham Forest have played at The City Ground, but Warnock may also feel that there is a real chance for Cardiff City to win here considering the goals Nottingham Forest have been shipping.

On the other hand, Nottingham Forest have been scoring plenty of goals at home and I can see this live game for the television viewers to be an entertaining one.

Both teams have looked better in the final third than they have in their own defensive third and I think both Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City will be able to create plenty of chances.

They have shown they can take those chances too and 6 of 7 Nottingham Forest home games have featured at least three goals this season. Cardiff City had seen 4 in a row away from home reach that total too before the 2-0 defeat at Burton Albion and I don't think either team will sit back on a 1-1 knowing how important three points are to them in their current positions.

Picking a winner is tougher because the Nottingham Forest players are seemingly upset with their owner and Cardiff City have a new manager who has plenty of experience at this level. However I also cannot ignore how well Nottingham Forest have played at home for the most part and I will simply look for recent trends to continue and this game to feature at least three goals.

The last 4 games at The City Ground between Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City have hit that number too and that is my pick from the live Championship game this weekend.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.76 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Newcastle United Win to Nil @ 2.25 Bet365 (2 Units)
Norwich City and Both Teams to Score @ 3.50 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Nottingham Forest-Cardiff City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)

October Update21-28-1, - 11.97 Units (96 Units Staked, - 12.47% Yield)

September Final43-28-1, + 35.17 Units (133 Units Staked, + 26.44% Yield)
August Final31-38-2, - 9 Units (124 Units Staked, - 7.26% Yield)
Season 2016/1773-66-3, + 26.17 Units (257 Units Staked, + 10.18% Yield)

Season 2015/16133-174-2, + 0.89 Units (669 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield

Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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